if I had to describe my reaction to Hansel and Gretel in a few words, I think I'd say 'surprisingly plotty'. By that, I don't mean a great epic with huge twists and turns all the way through, but it certainly, as my sister put it on the way home from the cimema last night, is the equivalent of a good YA novel.
It's not a long movie, only an hour an a half, but it doesn't need to be longer, it's not trying to be complex and long winded, instead, it's punchy, full of enough action for any fan of such things and then has enough plot behind it to hold the whole thing together, unlike some the more disastrous movies we've seen recently where it all seems to be action based on a very small premise.
Basic plot: Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their father, just like the fairy tale. They don't know why, they don't talk about it. But they did meet the witch in the gingerbread cottage and she did force feed Hansel candy, to the point that he has 'the sugar disease' - which is like no diabetes I've ever seen unless you expect a diabetic to go into a coma within seconds of not taking an unnamed injection that has no known source. However, practicalities aside, I mean, this is a fantasy movie and there are plenty of weapons around that just wouldn't be there, like a very effective gatling gun, the low-sugar attacks are a cheesy little plot device that comes in useful for the writer at one point, guess what, during a crucial fight.
Anyway, I digress, on with the plot: after escaping from their first witch, Hansel and Gretel become witch hunters, and folks looking for strong women in stories, H&G has it in bucket loads. First, Gretel is the leader of our duo, Hansel pretty much does as she says and she keeps him in line (more about the siblings' characters later). Plus, all our villains, witchy ones, are female, and Famke Janssen does a great job as the ever-nasty Muriel, grand high witch. There are some human villains, just to mix it up a bit and they're all men.
So, that's the premise, what about the main plot? Well, it's pretty straightforward, H&G are hired to find a town's children that have been going missing and the townsfolk suspect witches. H&G go up not only against the witches, but the town Sheriff, who wanted to burn an innocent women, whom he had decided was a witch. needless to say, violence and gore ensue - there's a reason this movie got a 15 rating in the UK, believe me, there is no trying to cover everything up for the sake of a 12A certificate (yay!). And a girlie shows off her assets, above the waist too, so another reason for the certificate. I am soo, sooo, glad that they didn't sacrifice the action for the rating, I've seen far too many movies of late that water down what the camera sees just to get a 12A, and that would be fine if the tone of the movie matched, but in a lot of cases, it didn't.
So, I won't go into details about the rest of the plot, but suffice to say there are revelations, conflict, separation, betrayal and of course, the big fight at the end (remember I mentioned a gatling gun ;P). All in all, a bloody good romp!
However, what I found the most interesting was the relationship between H&G. As I said earlier, she's definitely in charge, she's the sensible one, the negotiator, and that could have easily meant that Hansel could have been the bit of muscle behind her, but that is not how it comes across. Gemma plays Gretel as strong, but tempered and G has a deep, deep love for her brother. She is also not an invulnerable Mary Sue - she can kick arse, but she also gets her arse kicked. I'm not saying the characters in this are overly subtle, but someone though about them beyond their dialogue.
Hansel is a bit more complicated (or maybe I was just watching Jeremy more - I admit it, he is very good looking ;P). He came across as emotionally stunted by his childhood trauma, not very eloquent, unable to handle a woman's advances and he could have looked like a bit of a clown, but the way he was played/directed means his flaws were endearing, rather than clownish. There were also a few subtle things that were not overtly mentioned, just the way scenes were set up: in one bedroom scene, he slept under Gretel's bed when there was a bunk above for him. No explanation, no in yer face, this is a trauma reaction, just him lying on the floor and rolling under the bed to go back to sleep after Gretel wakes him up because she's having a bad dream about their childhood. I thought that was a nice little window onto their lives, not only Hansel, but Gretel's need to talk and Hansel's unwillingness to address the past (which of course is going to come back and bite them in the arse).
Oh yes, and as a side note, there was an interesting scene where H&G have been separated and G literally lands on H - they check each other over and they play it almost like they are lovers, which made me sit up and take notice - very well done, subtle scene in the midst of a whole heap of carnage, which leaves you to make up your own mind as to whether their situation has led to a little too much closeness in their relationship.
So, all in all, good characters, good supporting cast too and a fun, romping plot. It's good to see an ol' fashioned adventure on our screen again, no scrabbling for extra screen time, or younger certificates. There are: some fun comedic moments (chuckle, not belly laugh); a scattering of character subtleties, enough to give the watcher something to hang on to; strong women, both bad and good; strong men too, and finally a pretty engaging plot. I really enjoyed it, in fact I'd go see it again.
The only detractor, we had to see the movie in 3D, since there were no showings in the evening in 2D. The the 3D was crap. Pretty much all of it except the titles and credits was stuff flying out the screen at us, and in some cases, off the bottom of the screen, which threw me out of the 3D. At one point, we were in a forest at night, and I couldn't actually see the trees because the 3D dropped the amount of light. This is my little rant - quit with the 3D, PLEASE, film industry and go back to relying on plot rather than just special effects, this movie did not need 3D!